What are you sitting on?

With all we strive for in this world, it helps to remember what Montaigne observed:

“It is an absolute perfection and virtually divine to know how to enjoy our being rightfully. We seek other conditions because we do not understand the use of our own, and go outside of ourselves because we do not know what it is like inside. Yet there is no use our mounting on stilts, for on stilts we must still walk on our own legs. And on the loftiest throne in the world we are still sitting only on our own rump.”

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Drinking age: What the U.S. can learn from Europe

My family has been living in Switzerland for just over two years. There have been many adjustments to our lifestyle since moving from suburban CT to semi-urban Zurich. One of the first was around the different ages you are allowed to legally do things in Switzerland.

My about to turn sixteen-year-old son: “Dad, do you know that now that we live in Switzerland I won’t be allowed to get my driver’s license until I turn eighteen?”

Me: “I’m sorry about that but we will have lots of  new experiences here in -”

Him: “But I will be able to buy beer or wine in a bar!”

In Zurich, sixteen-year-olds don’t sneak liquor from the liquor cabinet, use fake I.D.s, binge drink in hiding or get behind the wheel of a car drunk, because they are afraid to tell their parents they have been drinking.

If you make drinking a big deal, kids won’t learn how to drink socially and responsibly. They are encouraged to associate drinking from their earliest experiences with it as something illicit, rebellious and subversive. What a flawed system we have in the U.S. that says you are responsible enough to vote, serve in the armed forces, drive a car and yet you somehow shouldn’t have a beer in a bar.

Here is a smart piece from FEE’s website:

What good would lowering the drinking age do? It would put an end to the perverse culture of secretiveness and abuse that has grown up around underage drinking. It would allow bars and restaurants to become “safe spaces” for college-age students to drink and Uber home if they need to. Proponents will undoubtedly also emphasize the revenue gains for the state that would come from legalization.

But the longer-term gains would be cultural. We could begin to foster a more European-style culture of drinking that promotes responsibility and civilized sobriety. People are more likely to act like adults if you treat them as adults. Prohibition has promoted a horrible childishness with terrible results for everyone.

Read the whole thing.

Don’t take my word for it. College presidents have seen the unfairness and unintended consequences of the U.S. drinking age. See here. They seek a reasoned and rational discussion.

The Amethyst Initiative states that, in their experience as university presidents, they have observed, “Alcohol education that mandates abstinence as the only legal option has not resulted in significant constructive behavioral change among our students,” and therefore they urge lawmakers “to invite new ideas about the best ways to prepare young adults to make responsible decisions about alcohol”. 

Europe can teach the U.S. many things to avoid but it can also provide some positive examples of personal freedom and responsibility. What should a young person learn how to do first, drive a car or drink responsibly?

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Multiculturalism: Lessons not to follow

The US has been steadily drifting away from its heritage of being the greatest culturally inclusive and unifying nation in the world’s history – E Pluribus Unum. Our unique ability to assimilate citizens from every corner of the earth and to allow anyone to become an American is a crucial underpinning of American exceptionalism. But the rise of identity politics depends on balkanizing communities, creating mindless voting blocks and keeping them that way – E pluribus, semper pluribus.

When charges of “cultural appropriation” are given credibility and seen as a negative not a positive feature of American society, we are drifting towards an approach to immigrants and immigration more and more like the approaches of Western Europe. Foreign Affairs has a thoughtful take on three different approaches to multiculturalism/assimilation, each well-meaning and all unsuccessful.

There has also been a guiding assumption throughout Europe that immigration and integration must be managed through state policies and institutions. Yet real integration, whether of immigrants or of indigenous groups, is rarely brought about by the actions of the state; it is shaped primarily by civil society, by the individual bonds that people form with one another, and by the organizations they establish to further their shared political and social interests. It is the erosion of such bonds and institutions that has proved so problematic—that links assimilationist policy failures to multicultural ones and that explains why social disengagement is a feature not simply of immigrant communities but of the wider society, too. To repair the damage that disengagement has done, and to revive a progressive universalism, Europe needs not so much new state policies as a renewal of civil society.

Kenan Malik’s analysis of multiculturalism in Germany, France and the UK is insightful, thorough and balanced. Read the whole thing.

For over 200 years, the US has successfully welcomed the world’s huddled masses and become stronger and richer because of their contributions. But this has succeeded because immigrants came here to become Americans and to fully participate in our country’s unique freedoms and commitment to liberty. Smart immigration reform will depend on continuing this tradition of inclusion and assimilation. Europe has shown us clearly that other models do not work.

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Filed under American exceptionalism, Balkanizing minorities, Immigration reform, Multiculturalism, Politics

Back to blogging – From a whole new perspective…

Since I last posted here, my life has changed in some profound ways. I started a new job 15 months ago and my family and I have moved. From suburban Fairfield county Connecticut we moved to suburban Zurich, Switzerland, which is a pretty big change.

A change in place creates a change in perspective. From the heart of Europe, the US and its politics looks slightly different. In a country that ranks 4th in per capita gun ownership and has .77 per 100,000 gun homicides my perspective on guns and the second amendment may benefit from a new look. I now live next door to a house where Johannes Brahms used to summer, so my perspective on art and history has also seen an interesting shift.

In a land where the splendor of the alps is a daily sight on my morning commute and just walking the dog provides breathtaking vistas, my love of the outdoors makes it a challenge to be sure I take full advantage.

But I remain intrigued by so many new things that make me think. And ready to share in ways that I hope make readers think too.

IMG_0779Gross Münster beside the Limmat River

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Denying minorities and poor people an education, keeps them ghettoized and voting for Democrats…Shame on Eric Holder

This story is all too emblematic of the problem with today’s liberal agenda. Claiming to defend the interests of poor and minority students through its actions, the Justice Department is doing the bidding of the biggest of the Democrat’s special interest overlords — the teachers’ unions. How can anyone claim to want to help children by denying them the best education available?

The Justice Department’s motion has tremendous human implications, personified by Mary Edler, whose grandsons are using vouchers to attend kindergarten and second grade in a Louisiana private school. All of the public schools in their district are graded C, D or F. Thanks to the scholarship program, Mrs. Edler says, “My grandsons are flourishing at Ascension of Our Lord in all aspects. They have small classes and an outstanding principal and staff.” She calls the tuition vouchers a “true blessing”—one that will be lost if the Justice Department prevails.

In its zeal, the Justice Department has transformed a bipartisan education reform program into a partisan opportunity. On Sept. 17, House Speaker John Boehner and other Republican leaders wrote an open letter to Attorney General Holder, calling Justice’s motion “extremely troubling and paradoxical in nature,” given that it hurts the “very children you profess to be protecting.”

Read it all here.

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George Will: Obama ignoring Constitution | CJOnline.com

George Will: Obama ignoring Constitution | CJOnline.com.

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Where is the outrage?

Our President has unilaterally decided to suspend the implementation of a law (granted a horrible one) passed by congress (granted using the barest of procedurally minimal votes) and he has offered no constitutional justification for his actions. Additionally, the suspension only applies to corporations. Individuals will have to live with the flaws of this law without White House intervention. To further add to this brazen flouting of the separation of powers, he has granted “waivers” to members of Congress and their staffs to ensure that they do not have to suffer the consequences of this “train wreck” of progressive legislation.

Where do we live? How can this stand? Our country’s foundation of freedom is the separation of powers – devised to prevent tyranny by any branch of government. Our free press is supposed to be our diligent watch dog, ready to warn us of abuses and overreach. Where are they now?

This president loves to think of himself in grandiose comparisons with Lincoln (in a stunning exercise of hubris.) This comparison by Nicholas Quinn Rosencrantz, shows exactly how puny those comparison display him to be. But this perspective should not only be found on the editorial page of America’s most conservative paper. It should be everywhere. This is not about partisan politics, it is about the foundations and integrity of our republic.

As Benjamin Franklin left Independence Hall in Philadelphia after the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, he was asked, “Well, Doctor, what do we have — a Republic or a Monarchy?” He replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

Can we?

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Filed under Politics, Uncategorized